Ham It Up Spread

I don’t think I ever ate ham spread (salad to some) until I was an adult. I grew up on bologna¬†spread which my parents made by grinding up bologna and adding whatever they added.

So I was shocked when I took my first bite of ham spread. Yikes, it was awful. Salty and drowning in mayo and toooo sweet! And try to find bologna spread in any deli in Iowa. Ain’t happening.

But I ran across a recipe over at JustAPinch, and then I got to thinking, and I have left over ham, and so I, in my pomposity decided I could do this.

And I did. And I corrected all the crap I didn’t like. So.

You might like it, or you might now. Only way to know is to continue reading I guess. ūüôā

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 c diced ham
  • 2 chopped up sweet gherkins
  • 4 scallions chopped, white part and a bit of the green
  • 1 heaping tbsp of pickled jalape√Īo
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4-1/3 c mayonnaise
  • 2/3 tsp pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Put everything in a food processor with not all of the mayo and pulse until it is like small pebbles and comes together.
  2. Taste and adjust for seasonings.
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Golden Honey Mustard Dressing

I am a salad lover, so it stands to reason that the dressing is important to me. I’m not a fan of bottled stuff, mostly because it doesn’t taste good, and I can’t figure out what half of the ingredients are.

So when I add meat to my salad, well it’s even more imperative that the dressing be great. This is simple and goes together so fast, that I could almost make it faster than you can unscrew the cap on some bottled junk.

When we have left over steak, or when I plan it out with a newly roasted chicken breast, I get all my favorite lettuces and cukes, and sweet peppers and on and on, spread out my luscious meat across the top, and ladle on this wonderful sweet yet tangy topping.

And then we binge! Oh, and if you want some real spice to this, especially with chicken, add a chopped up jalape√Īo and get down and dirty!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp standard mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 tsp pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp milk (if needed to thin it down)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Put everything save the milk in a bowl and whisk it until everything is incorporated. Add milk as needed to thin.

Serves: 2 large salads, maybe 3.

The Not So Sweet Potato Casserole

I don’t recall how old I was before I first saw a sweet potato casserole covered with tiny marshmallows. It looked good. I thought I had been missing something. So I dug in. And yech. . . .not for me.

No, I’m one of the strange minority who doesn’t like my sweet potatoes struggling to overcome brown sugar and maple syrup and honey, and candy canes for all I know.

I like it savory. I grew up eating them like baked potatoes, with butter and salt and pepper.

Okay, so I’m a bit more sophisticated, and I’ve taken this up a level or two, and it’s a bit more than just old sweet potatoes.

Give it a look and give it a try and see what you think.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled and mashed
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 tsp rum extract
  • 1/2 c sweetened condensed milk
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2/3 c chopped pecans or walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Either mash by hand and then add rest of ingredients, except the nuts,  or throw it all in a mixer and mix until incorporated.
  2. Just before it goes in the oven (this can be done a day ahead) put the pecans on top. Cover and bake in a 350¬į oven for 45-60 minutes.
  3. NOTE: if you are warming other things in the oven, it’s fine at 325¬į for an hour.

 

Apricot Bundt Cake With Almond Dust

I feel like I’m delivering a present.

Because I am!

This recipe is simply divine. And all the credit goes to Traci Bentz who posted it at JustAPinch. I tweaked it just a little bit, mostly due to what I had on hand and what I didn’t.

It was so moist, and lovely. It is huge, and heavy, and it makes a bit more batter than you can fit in, and it takes a bit longer to cook, and well, it’s worth it!

The picture doesn’t do it credit, since our camera photo program doesn’t interface with this computer, so this is a google image. So imagine the whole top covered in sliced almonds and you have it.

So make this for New Years. Make it. Trust me. You’re welcome!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 c sugar
  • 1 c butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1/2 c apricot nectar (comes in a six-pack in my store)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp rum extract
  • 2/3 c of dried apricots, diced small
  • 2/3 of a 18 oz jar of apricot preserves
  • 3 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

GLAZE:

  • balance of the apricot preserves
  • 1/2- 1¬†c apricot nectar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 oz bag of sliced almonds

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 325¬į Generously butter and flour a large bundt pan. (Frankly I think canola oil might be better, I’ve read that butter releases its water and doesn’t release near as good as either oil or vegetable shortening)
  2. Cream together the butter and the sugar in a standard mixer until creaming and fluffy. Add each egg, one and a time, and mix in well. Add everything up to through the preserves. (Note that Traci used 1 tsp lemon extract and 1 tsp almond extract in place of my zest and rum extract).
  3. Whisk the baking soda into the flour and then add in small increments until all incorporated in the batter. Then beat for about one minute.
  4. Pour it into the pan. (My bundt was full to almost the top. It doesn’t rise too much, but it did rise over the top, and when it settles down after it cools, it stuck on one side, making it break the rim when it was turned out. Other than presentation, it was fine. So I would make sure that you don’t fill beyond a one inch margin at the top. Put the rest in a small buttered ramekin and try to bake it off as well if you wish.
  5. Bake for 80-90 minutes. (it took me an additional 15) until wooden skewer comes out clean. Let sit for 20 minutes and then turn out onto a serving dish. Cool completely.
  6. For the glaze: Place the remaining preserves into a saucepan and add about 1/3c or so of the nectar. Heat, and then add 1 tbsp of cornstarch, cook until it thickens and then add as much nectar as you wish to thin it down to the consistency you wish.
  7. Prick some holes into the top the of cake and pour about 1/2 c of nectar around the top, then pour on the apricot glaze. You will have a pretty generous amount. Then just sprinkle on the almonds. They stick nicely.

Serves: 10 at least.

True Blue Beef Stew

It’s a universal food, beef stew, or at least some kind of meat stew.

And in the US, there are regional differences as well. This is my version, which is pretty much normal. However, it is delicious if I do say so.

It has as much to do with the method as the ingredients here. There is a reason that it is calls for tougher cuts of meat.

I hope you enjoy it, and perhaps it will cause some tweaking to your own recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1/2‚Ä≥ dice
  • 1/2 c flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 qt more or less of beef stock (I use unsalted)
  • 3 ribs celery, sliced
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1 med onion, cut into twelve pieces
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, micro-planed
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 med potatoes, diced
  • 1 more medium onion, cut into twelve pieces
  • a roux made of 3 tbsp each butter and flour
  • 1 c frozen peas, defrosted

INSTRUCTIONS:

 

  1. Put the oil in a large and heavy stew pot, and warm to medium.
  2. Pat dry (with towelling) the meat (this actually is quite important). Then toss in the flour until coated.
  3. Place in a single layer, and with some room in the pot, as many of the cubes of meat as you can fit. Brown on all sides, and then push to the side, and add more until you have them all in.
  4. Once browned, add the¬† first onion, carrots, and celery, garlic and thyme. Add enough stock to cover. ¬†Add the paste. Stir everything up,¬† cover, and reduce heat to a bare simmer and let go for three hours. I check about every 45 minutes or so, but as long as its covered it won’t dry.
  5. About an hour before eating, add the potatoes and the second onion.  Add more stock to cover again. Continue simmering at a bit higher rate.
  6. Meanwhile make your roux in a saute pan. Once combined, cook for about 3 minutes, and then set aside until a few minutes before eating.  Add half, and warm up the stew to a boil and see how this looks. If it is thick enough, then stop, or add the rest if it still needs thickening. Once you are finished here, taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed. Then add the peas. Stir in, and you are ready to eat.

Serves: 6

Serve with: nice crusty bread, on noodles, with dumplings, with buttermilk biscuits.

Si, Si, Cheese Enchiladas

What can be said about cheese enchiladas? They are simply sublime are they not? Unless they are not, and that usually comes from using inferior ingredients.

So do yourself a favor and make some Final Destination Enchilada Sauce first of all. It will simply make all the difference in the world between, American Enchiladas and real South of the Border ones.

You can make it all in one day, or make the sauce and freeze it for when you just have to have some cheese!

The rest of the ingredients are fairly easy. I will admit, construction is a mess. So my advice is to try to get all your ingredients set up and ready, and then, well, just accept the fact that it will be messy to put together.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Enchilada sauce, homemade or otherwise (about 1 1/2 c)
  • 10-12 corn tortillas
  • 1 c¬† onion, diced (the sweeter the better)
  • 2 cups of your favorite cheese–cheddar, Monterey jack, or a blend, grated
  • 1/2 of a package of cotija cheese (or similar crumbly Mexican cheese) grated
  • 1/4 c of oil, give or take

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Get everything diced, grated and so forth.
  2. Put your sauce is a broad saute pan and warm
  3. Put oil in a saute pan and heat to a sizzle
  4. Take a 13 x 9 baking dish and smear with a small amount of the sauce, just enough so the tortillas won’t stick.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 350¬į
  6. When everything is ready, using tongs, take a tortilla and lay it in the oil, and let it sizzle for NO MORE than 30 sec. Turn over and do the other side. Pick up and drain, and then lay it in the sauce, turning to coat both sides.
  7. Now comes the messy part. Place the tortilla on a plate, then place some diced onion and both kinds of cheese (a couple of TBSP of the cheese). Roll up carefully and place in the baking pan.
  8. Continue until the pan is filled. Mine generally holds 10.
  9. Ladle some of the sauce over the top of them all, and spread it around. You don’t want or need lots here, maybe a bit more than 1/2 a cup. Then spread lots of grated cheese over¬†all of it.¬†
  10. Pop into the oven and leave only long enough to melt the cheese. About 10-15 min.
  11. Place on the table with sour cream, avocado, chopped scallions, and/or olives. I also placed a bowl of shredded lettuce on the table and scattered that on my enchiladas. It provides a nice crunch and cooling to the dish. Also nice served with “Spanish” rice and/or refried beans.

Cuban Red Chile Sauce

I am far from being an expert when it comes to Mexican cooking. So, like most cooking, it’s a bit of a journey. You go with the best, until something better comes along.

And it has.

In the case of enchilada sauce. I have posted one here, called Bring it On Enchilada Sauce. It came from a website that was touted as being authentic. And I have no doubt it was and is. Trouble was that it was not very tasty. Still it was useable.

But I have found and tried a recipe that is both authentic and delicious, and so I’m posting it. I urge you, if you haven’t tried the other, to abandon it, and try this one instead.

It comes from Juliann Esquivel an excellent cook who posts at JustaPinch. Juliann has blue ribbons, which I have yet to gain, so she knows her stuff! ¬†She says this recipe is 200 years old, and has been passed down through the generations. It is, I admit, not an easy recipe, but not really as hard as you think at first glance. It’s more messy than anything.

I’m only giving you the sauce. I will post the cheese enchiladas separately which we really enjoyed today. You can make your own chicken stock and I’ll leave that to you since there are recipes everywhere. I confess that I’m addicted to the ease of using the boxed stock, (no salt), but please feel free to be as masochistic as you wish, and make your own! I’ve made homemade stock and it’s easy enough, I just haven’t been disciplined to save my extraneous chicken parts lately to¬†make my own.

This recipe makes enough sauce for about 40 enchiladas. I used what we needed for ten, and then divided the balance of the sauce into three quart freezer bags and put them in the freezer. That will substantially lighten the work load, since you don’t have to make fresh sauce each and every time.

So here goes:

INGREDIENTS:

For softening the Chilis:

  • 6-8 dried chilis (anchos, pasilla, New Mexican, guajillo) any combo (check the package which tells you the heat level) I used half anchos and half New Mexican with 1 de arbol (a Serrano which has been dried, and is¬†quite hot).
  • 1/2 of a large onion
  • a bit of salt
  • water to cover

For the Chili paste:

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional–wait to the end, taste and decide)
  • 6 tbsp or so of chicken stock
  • 1/2 lg tablet of Mexican chocolate ((okay, Juliann was kind enough to give me a substitute, since I can’t find this: Take a spice grinder and place 2 cinnamon sticks and 1/4 c roasted almonds and grind up into powder. (the almonds will be a¬† big pasty). Remove and place in a bowl, and add 6 oz of baking cocoa (unsweetened) and 1 c of sugar. Mix thoroughly.)¬† Juliann says each tablet is about 2 oz (1/2 would be 1) and so use about 3 heaping TBSP of this mixture in place of the Mexican chocolate)) you will have lots of this left over, so just label and place in a container in your pantry for use when you need it. Might be a good idea to indicate that 3 tbsp = 1/2 tablet for future reference.

For making the Roux:

  • 1/2 c oil (corn or canola)
  • 1/2 c flour
  • As much as 20 oz of chicken stock

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Clean your chilis by opening them and removing seeds, rinse them off and place in a sauce pan. Add the half onion, cover with the water, and bring to a boil, reducing and simmering for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and let sit for at least an hour, more if you can.
  2. Gather the chili paste items, and get out either a blender or a food processor.
  3. Make your roux in a saute pan. Using a whisk, stir the flour into the oil and continue stirring as it bubbles and the oil is absorbed into the flour. When you start to smell it, take it off the heat and continue stirring. It will be a medium nutty color, darkened from the light yellow when it starts. Set this aside.
  4. When you are ready to deal with the soaking chilis, use tongs or strain out the liquid, and place 1/2 of the chilis and onion into the blender/processor.
  5. Add 1/2 of each of the chili paste ingredients.
  6. Blend until well pureed. It will look similar in color to the picture above but will be more pasty than the picture. Dump in the roux pan.
  7. Do the other half the same way and add that to the roux pan.
  8. Now turn on the heat, fairly low, and begin by adding a good cup of the stock and blending with a whisk. Bring to a very soft boil, stirring all the time so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Take this slow and easy, if it burns it will be bad. Once it seems hot, continue adding stock and stirring, until you think it is the right consistency.(thick but pourable. Think of it as a spaghetti sauce¬†instead of a pizza sauce, ¬†when you are seeking the right balance).
  9. You are done.

Serves: I fixed 10 enchiladas, and I froze 3 bags with enough sauce in each to make another 10 each. This is the best I can offer as a guide.